W R Thomas and J K K Rhodes

I’ve had to go into my Thomas and Holmes downstriking (they call it ‘overstruck’) as one tangent was missing its string (1 string per note). I found turning the tangent 180 degrees moved the surface back just enough to sort out the problem. There’s a few notes striking 2 strings - I’m hoping the same procedure will work on these otherwise… Anyone with experience with these rather delicate (but perfect for Mozart touch) instruments? Thanks.

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Fascinating! I have never seen one of these. if you remove neighboring keys, can you eyeball and see how the also fascinating tangent is striking?

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Here’s a pic of the bottom key out, The arrow points at a spring held in by a brass pin. You’ve got to take that off for every key you want to take out. Very annoying, so I’m not sure I want to do that. The problem must be caused by a slight twist so I think I’ll try putting some

shims against the bridge pins.

OK, let’s see…The key rocks on the rudder thing at the bottom back, pulled up by the spring which is held under tension by the little cross pin. The bushings behind the key fronts fit onto spacing pins that come down from the name board.
There’s no strong cross piece, like a balance rail and the stringing is opposite of usual, diagonal from left front to right rear, so the twist would lift the treble rear corner. But perhaps there is a horizontal twist, distorting the rectangle and shifting the right front corner forward? And those tangents are rather intentionally installed, not easy to move.
So how about looking at the hitchpin end of the strings? Could a small pin or screw be installed to bear against the non-speaking length and move the troubled string into realignment with the tangent?

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Yes, very astute. The problem is in the top 9 strings where the tangent is also hitting the previous note’s string though not on the C which is the one I fixed. Taking the key out to try turning the tangetnt 180 degrees is a pain but that’s where I’ll start. Your idea I’ve used on my Morley with plenty of success. On this one just getting at the hitchpins is a nightmare and then the keys are not stable enough without the ‘balance rail’ in place to judge if the adjustment is correct. Sadly it doesn’t seem constructed to last 60 or so years unlike my Morley (rubbish), Michael Thomas or Rawson.

edit: the black notes are coming off as I play!

I am very glad to find out more about these clavichords. One was brought to me recently. Never seen anything like it before. The one I had here wasn’t playing. It had been made for the current owners’ mother in 1957

Eventually and with some difficulty I removed the top cover, along with the keyboard pivot pins, which were badly corroded; I removed them and made new stainless steel pins, which solved the problem. It’s now in daily use.

I could not remove the keys, probably because he instrument had been a bit damp for some time; no screws, so I’d have had to slacken the strings before anything would move.

Crazy instrument but works very well. Here are some photos.

David Law

Surely it is by Thomas and Rhodes? I met them once in Edinburgh long ago.

David Law

Great to meet another one! Definitely Thomas and Rhodes. I love the feel that the downstriking gives you - quite a firm ‘keybed’ feel and the volume of sound is amazing for single strings and such a small sound board. The pins the back of the keys sit on is quite tight and the keys quite fragile. I can see you having problems getting the keys off if the instrument is not in A1 condition. My one belonged to Lady something daughter of a Canadian High Commissioner and former Ontario premier.

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Your instrument used to belong to Lady Scholey. I remember seeing it, back in the 1980’s, when I was working on another instruments of hers. Here’s the auction catalogue entry from last year: https://pianoauctions.co.uk/27th-april-2021-catalogue/lot-119-clavichord.

Sorry Miles, they are not the same instrument. Good try though and it’ nice to see more of these.


That is it. I was trying to remember how much I paid for it. What a bargain!

Sorry for the confusion Dave! I was referring to steverod’s instrument.

Do you know any more about it? Or the other instruments? I’ve often wondered if there is any connexion to her dad - I grew up in Ontario.

About the clavichord, no. I did a lot of work on the little Italian harpsichord. I even made a drawing of it. There are details of its history, within the family, in the catalogue entry: Lot 30 - Italian Single-manual Harpsichord - April 2021 — Piano Auctions Ltd

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That was also a bargain for somebody!